Media’s love affair with McCain

One of the curiosities of American politics is the media’s ongoing infatuation with John McCain. A bit of this is based on things such as McCain’s opposition to torture (unfortunately, we can no longer treat opposing torture like opposing child molestation, i.e., something one assumes is standard equipment in a presidential candidate rather than a luxury upgrade). Yet most of the journalistic love affair with the Republican senator from Arizona is based on other factors.

Consider this typical endorsement from the Orlando Sentinel: While McCain “has stuck to his principles at the risk of sinking his campaign,” Mitt Romney “has abandoned positions that would have alienated his party’s conservative base.” (Indeed, I checked a computer database and discovered that, in the national media, Romney is at least six times more likely to be described as a flip-flopper than McCain.)

This does not merely ignore but actually inverts the truth. The fact is that no presidential candidate in either party has flip-flopped as egregiously as McCain on such a wide range of issues. Here’s just a small sample of Sen. Straight Talk’s recent series of remarkable conversions to politically convenient stances:

— On abortion rights, McCain has done a 180-degree turn, from favoring only the most minor restrictions and opposing the overturning of Roe v. Wade, to supporting an almost total ban, while advocating that the Supreme Court reverse Roe immediately.

— McCain has transformed himself from a deficit hawk who mocked supply-side economics into someone who sounds like he’s drunk deeply from the wackiest vats of supply-side Kool-Aid, to the point where he now claims raising taxes decreases revenues (a claim so wildly in conflict with the facts — for example, federal tax revenues almost doubled in real terms after the Clinton tax increases — that it’s either a shameless lie or a product of astounding ignorance).

— In regard to ethanol subsidies, McCain has gone from treating them as the worst sort of pork to becoming a strong supporter of a program despised by economists, but beloved of Iowa farmers and the good people at Archer Daniels Midland.

— Six years ago, McCain sternly condemned Jerry Falwell as “an agent of intolerance.” Eighteen months ago, he gave the commencement address at Falwell’s university, while openly embracing one of the most noxious figures of the religious right.

These are just a few examples from a far longer list. On topics ranging from immigration, to campaign finance reform, to gay marriage, to accepting support from various sleazy characters he previously shunned, McCain has either completely reversed his views or seriously equivocated regarding what they are this week.

Yet the media continue to lavish him with worshipful paeans to his supposedly uncompromising commitment to principled leadership no matter what the political cost etc., etc.

Part of this is accounted for by lazy autopilot journalism, which stops people from bothering to check whether the story line they’ve repeated for years still has any relationship to reality.

But part of it is something worse. When it comes to McCain, many of the sophisticates at the top of the media pyramid are like a masochistic spouse who treats open infidelity as a twisted sort of faithfulness. They love McCain because when he lies to their face he doesn’t even pretend to be doing otherwise. According to the pretzel logic of a certain kind of journalism, that counts as candor.

All this would be merely amusing if McCain were not a genuinely tragic figure. The young man who showed such exemplary courage in the face of his North Vietnamese tormenters has become an old man whose courage abandoned him when subjected to the more subtle tortures of worldly ambition.

“Count no man happy,” noted the Athenian statesman, “until he is dead.”

(Paul F. Campos is a law professor at the University of Colorado and can be reached at Paul.Campos(at)Colorado.edu.)

4 Responses to "Media’s love affair with McCain"

  1. barak  January 23, 2008 at 8:17 am

    I met John McCain many years ago. I did not know who he was at the time, and my impression of him was that he was one of the most slimey people I had ever met. Later I found out that he was a senator from AZ. That explained it.
    I am not certain that he can really be called a tragic figure. That gives him some standing as a noble person, which he most definitely is NOT. I can only explain his actions in North Vietnam as either abject stupidity or pre-planning for his eventual political campaigns.
    Its probably a little of both.

  2. peccavi  January 23, 2008 at 12:59 pm

    “– McCain has transformed himself from a deficit hawk who mocked supply-side economics into someone who sounds like he’s drunk deeply from the wackiest vats of supply-side Kool-Aid, to the point where he now claims raising taxes decreases revenues (a claim so wildly in conflict with the facts — for example, federal tax revenues almost doubled in real terms after the Clinton tax increases — that it’s either a shameless lie or a product of astounding ignorance).”

    many would argue that this was due to the strength of the economy influenced by reagan policies and the surge of the markets, the economy’s improvement due to tax relief and the support of the business sector is sometimes a slow process. i’m not an economist but i’ve read arguements supporting this.

  3. Carl Nemo  January 23, 2008 at 3:33 pm

    John McPain is as phony as a blue three dollar bill.

    Yep he’s a flipper all right so just try to imagine him as our Commander in Chief?! He’ll be a geniuinely “mad” variant of Bushco in spades; ie., Mr. “bomb, bomb, bomb, Iran”…!

    The best link ever on the worldwide web is the one I’m going to supply. I urge citizens to read it and let what this guy is all about percolate into their collective consciousness. Truly a scary guy; a genuine “Manchurian candidate”.

    If he makes it to the Whitehouse; which I have my doubts, aides best take the Queen of Diamonds out of every pack of playing cards on prem… :|

    http://www.electricnevada.com/pages00/mccain.htm

    Carl Nemo **==

    p.s. An election victory bonus for us; ie., “we the people”, if this guy makes it to the Whitehouse will be WWIII…!

  4. Richard.Grayson  January 23, 2008 at 8:42 pm

    Sophocles was no statesman. "Count no man happy until he is dead" is from the drama Oedipus Rex.
    Richard
    http://grayson-for-congress.blogspot.com

Comments are closed.